“Darcy, I—” Lizzie said, and he cut her off with another kiss. He couldn’t help himself. Neither of them had gotten a full sentence out since Lizzie had turned off the camera.
She tilted her forehead against his, giving them each a moment to breathe. “Darcy, I just realized—”
Darcy could imagine a million ways this sentence could end. I just realized we need to get to a hotel because Netherfield is too far away. Or maybe, I just realized my parents left town and took my sister with them, so please take me right here on this bench.
“You’re a pornographer.”
“The camera’s off, Lizzie, and we’re both still fully dressed.” For the moment, he thought, threading his fingers back in her hair.
She placed her hands on his chest firmly. “No, you own a porn company. It’s weird to think about.”
“I own a boat. That doesn’t make me a pirate.”
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Lizzie said. Darcy shrugged. It probably looked rather strange, as he wasn’t used to doing that. Lizzie smirked at him, then pointed a finger square in the middle of his tie. “You, Mr. William Darcy, bought a porn company, and now you own it, and you’re a pornographer.”
“I intend to discuss the purchase with my financial team shortly, but I may liquidate it, depending on certain—”
But Lizzie lunged forward, and then they were kissing again. Darcy put Novelty Exposures firmly out of his mind.
“I think you need to make sure everyone in those movies wants to be in them,” Lydia said to him that evening. He’d stayed for dinner, and was fairly certain Mrs. Bennet wanted him to stop washing dishes and start impregnating her daughter, but it was only polite, according to Bing. Bing was much better with parents than he was, and this was the most pertinent of his tips: wash the dishes after dinner. Lydia had volunteered to help over her sister’s plea that perhaps she go elsewhere, so now Lizzie’s parents were talking to her in the living room while he was in the kitchen scrubbing china.
Lydia dried things off lazily with a kitchen towel. She glanced off to the living room, presumably checking for parents, and continued in a low voice. “Just make sure those are willing people in those videos you’re selling now.”
“I’m not personally selling anything,” he said, dipping in a teacup. “It’s merely an acquisition.”
“Oh god. Boring. Boring boring boring. I don’t care what your accounting books say, you own the company, yes or no?”
“Yes,” he said, still wishing he could add a coda.
“Then it’s your job to make sure no one is, like, going through what I did. Or coming to America and being sex-trafficked into porn. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and it’s this huge thing that nobody talks about.”
“I’m certain someone is making sure—”
“You,” she said. “You wanted to fly in here and be a hero, right, Darce? I get it, you wanted to help Lizzie.” She looked over his shoulder, avoiding his eyes.
She rolled her eyes and sighed loudly at him. “Which is fine. You’re hot for my sister, we all get it. Mom’s already got the wedding planned. I hope you like country-themed wedding bands.”
“I’m really don’t prefer— wait, are you being facetious?”
“Maybe. Regardless. You wanted to be the hero for Lizzie, but now you have an opportunity to be one for a bunch of people.”
Darcy stilled, contemplating. If this company had been willing to put out Lydia’s tape, done
without her consent, it did call into question what other things they were putting out for sale. There could be others...and probably were. Suddenly, he thought of a room of Lydias, all wondering why he hadn’t done more.
“I’ll look into it,” he said suddenly, sure he could no longer in good conscience sell off the company.
“I have some ideas I think you’re going to want to use. Things I’ve been thinking about; ideas to make sure no one’s in porn who doesn’t want to be,” Lydia said. “I think porn’s cool if you wanna be in porn. We have to make sure that’s what’s happening. Consent.”
She ignored him. “I’ll call you later. Don’t worry, I already got your number from Lizzie.”
“She gave you my number?”
“I took it from her phone,” Lydia said, putting the last dish in the counter rack. “Now, speaking of Lizzie, shouldn’t you go get her out of here?” She snapped the dish cloth at him. It was like being back in boarding school. “And Darce?”
“Lizzie would never tell you this, but she’s totally ticklish.” She shot him a wicked grin. “Have fun!”
About one month into his courtship with Lizzie, and two weeks before she was moving out to San Francisco to work on her new startup, Darcy started looking into Lydia’s ideas. A few of them suggested she had little familiarity with the business world, but one of them in particular— including post-filming interviews with the performers— seemed like a viable plan. He was typing out an email about it when his Skype sounded.
“Hello?” he said.
“William Darcy, you scamp,” Caroline said, her tone clipped.
“Caroline, it’s so good to hear from you,” he said, and he meant it. “You’ve been scarce.”
“Well, the world’s not going to save itself, you know.” Darcy knew Caroline was always busy with her job as a venture capitalist, but even so, he was aware she was probably also licking her wounds regarding her brother. “Besides, you’re more than busy enough with that new paramour of yours.”
“Yes,” she snapped, throwing her hair over her shoulder. “And I think it’s a travesty.”
She sighed. “Congratulations.”
“You’re still important to me, Caro.”
“I know. Listen, I’m not calling to talk about your...relationship. I actually wanted to talk about that video company you purchased.”
Darcy leaned back in his chair. “It’s not just pornography.”
“Don’t play games. I just wanted to point out you have a huge opportunity here.”
“To work make sure the performers aren’t being trafficked?”
“What? I suppose. But I meant the opportunity to serve an underserved community.”
“Lesbians? Now, I’m not given to watching it myself, but—”
“I’ve seen your browser history. Don’t be coy. But speak not of straight-male-oriented babes with long nails and obvious distaste on their faces. I mean actual queer content for those of us with money and the desire to see well-shot lady-centric movies.”
“I will keep that in mind, Caroline.”
“Tastefully done, of course,” she added after a moment.
She gave him a slightly wicked look. “Natural is good too.”
His fingers were laced in Lizzie’s red locks and hers were pulling off his belt when his cell phone went off. “I’m sorry,” he said with a gasp. “But I have to.”
Lizzie looked crushed, but she nodded. Pemberley was in the middle of a huge acquisition, and there was little either of them could do. He had to be available to the team at all possible moments.
His phone call with Reynolds lasted fourteen agonizing minutes, during which Lizzie started playing with the buttons on her shirt, bit her lip, and flopped back onto the couch at just such an angle that he could see her bra.
He dropped the phone the moment Reynolds hung up. “Where was I?” he said, crawling back over her and dropping his head to her neck. She turned her head away from him and thrust her hips up, a soft moan falling from her lips.
They were both shirtless when the phone rang again.
Darcy swore, to Lizzie’s amusement. “It still sounds so forced coming from you,” she said, pushing herself up. “I should get back home anyway.”
“Hello, please hold just a moment,” Darcy said. He muted his phone. “You know, if you lived here, you wouldn’t have to get home because you’d be home.”
“Not this again,” she said, patting his arm. “You know I want to go it alone for a while. One day.” She slipped into her shirt and kissed his cheek. “Tomorrow. No, wait, I have a shoot. Thursday.” And then she was gone.
“Hello. I apologize for the wait,” he said into the phone, alone on his couch.
“I’ve always been a fan of pizza delivery drivers,” Charlotte said. “And I think there could be a market for ironic takes on classic porn tropes.”
It was all he could do not to hang up on her.
Thanksgiving at the Bennet house was chaotic. Darcy considered himself far more comfortable with that chaos than he’d ever thought possible, but Jane’s recent engagement meant everyone was spending Thanksgiving in the Bennet’s cramped quarters.
It also left Mrs. Bennet hungry to marry off the rest of her daughters.
His explanation to her that Lizzie prefered to date for a while fell on deaf ears. “Oh, but you can’t listen to Lizzie,” her mother had said, cornering him in the kitchen. “She’s just a little confused about how often offers like you come along. She’s always been so fanciful.”
Privately, he thought a specified waiting period was inane, but he respected his girlfriend enough not to bring it up again until at least March 2014.
He threaded his way past Lizzie’s extended family, as well as a good number of his friends, to hide in the den with Mr. Bennet when Lydia stopped him.
“You offered Lizzie a job,” she said, pointing a finger into his chest.
He had no idea how to respond to this. “Months ago, and I recognize now my error in judgement. It was foolish, and I’ve more than realized why that would’ve been—”
“What is with you and your life stories? No, I don’t care about that. I need a job.”
“You’re still in school,” he said evenly.
“Only through December. Well, only through December at community college. Then I’ll be finishing up my degree in business in San Francisco. Obvi.”
“And you want to work for Pemberley while you’re doing so?”
“No, I want to work for Novelty Exposures. Johnson’s retiring at the end of the month, and I want to take over for him.”
“How do you even...?”
“Lizzie talks to me now. The point is, there’s a spot opening up.”
She shoved a folder into his hands. “I knew you’d say that, so I put together a proposal I think you’ll find interesting. Your numbers have gone up since you’ve implemented just two of my ideas, and I think I can do even more.”
“You’re my—” he stopped. Not sister-in-law, obviously, but hardly a neutral figure.
“Gigi worked for you in college.”
“That was different.”
“She said you’d say that.”
Darcy sighed. “Where’s my sister?”
“Off with Caroline somewhere. Gigi likes my plan too.”
“Be that as it may. You know nothing about the pornography industry.”
She gave him a hard look, then arched an eyebrow at him.
Darcy scoffed. “You know what I mean. The actual industry. Not that you should. There are so many things you could be doing with your life, and your focus should be school.”
“Level with me,” she said, folding her arms across her chest. “How old were you when you took over Pemberley? I bet you were, what, still in school? Just out of school?”
“That’s entirely different. I did what I had to do,” he said, throwing his shoulders back.
“And you thrived.”
“There were circumstances, Lydia.”
“I know that. Your parents, I know. But, you get me? I could also ascend the corporate ladder. I could... follow in your footsteps.” She paused, then added, “But with porn.”
Darcy needed to get away from her before he agreed to hire her just to silence her. “I need to find your father.”
“He’s in the den, hiding, of course. Later, Darce.”
The next morning, Darcy was on his way to the shower when Lizzie’s cousin Mary stopped him.
She blinked sleepily at him, then pushed back a chunk of hair and grinned. “Girls like seeing guys getting it on with each other. Trust me on this.”
He turned the same shade as the towel in his hand.
“This guac is de-vine,” Lydia said, shoving an overloaded chip into her mouth.
Darcy feared for the safety of Brandon and Fitz’s couch, but Brandon was apparently just pleased to see someone appreciate the lavish Superbowl spread. “Anything for the porn princess among us.”
“You watch NE’s videos?” she asked, her face scrunching up in delight.
“Well, I saw clips of—” he tapped his chin thoughtfully.. “Hun, what was that video?”
Fitz put down his craft beer next to his coaster, which made Darcy’s heart stop just a bit. “You’re taking me away from football to talk about porn? Truly, this is the best holiday of the year. Let me think...was it...Stroker, or Jack the Giant Layer?”
“Our movie parodies are really popular. You know, the gay porn was all Darcy’s idea,” Lydia said, throwing him an actual smile.
Lizzie, curled up next to him on the couch with a thick novel, smothered a laugh.
Darcy felt he should clarify. “Actually, it was—”
“FUCK YEAH GO BRONCOS!” Lydia screamed.
“You break my heart when you do that, Little Bennet,” Fitz said. “Though that was a great play. Even if the Packers didn’t make it.”
“You’re just mad we’re kicking your ass.”
“The Kick-Ass 2 parody! That’s it!” Fitz said, a grin on his face. “You sent me the screener.”
“The cinematography was amazing, though,” Brandon said. “I’m not really into twinks, but those guys looked so good I wish I was.”
“And I was actually invested in the characters,” Fitz said.
“I’m just glad we’ve got broad enough appeal to go after different demographics with the same videos, because you know who loved that one? My cousin. Oh, god! I really love these wings,” Lydia said, all charm and sticky sauce.
Darcy threw a napkin at her.
“You’re going to love these petit fours,” Jane said, placing a platter of tiny cakes in front of him. Each of them had a little little firework design on top of them, and they were almost too perfect to eat.
Bing leaned across Darcy and grabbed three, popping them into his mouth. “Favorite thing Jane makes, hands down.”
He smiled dreamily at her.
Jane took off her frilly red, white and blue apron and sat down with them. “I’m so glad you and Lizzie could make it out here for our party!”
“We wouldn’t have missed it,” Darcy said, craning his head to seek out his girlfriend, who was taking yet another call. Things were going well at her company; a recent profile of her in The Wall Street Journal had netted her attention from the mainstream media.
Lately, she’d been getting more calls than him, even. But she glanced up from her call and made eye contact with him, giving him an exasperated wave, which he returned to her.
Darcy tried to think of a topic to discuss with Jane. She’d never been less than gracious towards him, but he still felt a sense of guilt for what he had done to her, and to Bing as well. Since the two of them had reconciled, he’d felt a wall: the two of them, and then him, who’d been complicit in their break-up.
“How’s...the wedding planning coming along?” Darcy said, aiming for casual.
“Oh, just fine,” Jane said. “You know how it is, with soon-to-be in-laws”— Darcy had to disagree, and felt he might never know at the rate things were going with Lizzie— “and there’s been some, well, conflict about what’s important, but Bing and I are committed to standing our ground.”
“All that really matters is that we’re together,” Bing said, kissing Jane tenderly on the lips.
Jane flushed happily at him. “And the catering. I’m not bending on that, no matter what your father says.”
“I’m going to go make the rounds, okay? See you both later,” she said, striding off towards the living room.
“This is a great apartment,” Darcy said, feeling shy around his best friend.
“We really like it here,” Bing said. “Listen, we have to talk about something.”
Darcy braced himself. They’d barely been alone since all those revelations a year and a half before, and this was, he was certain, the dreaded fight he’d been fearing ever since.
“You need to make more dirty videos.”
“Not for me, so much, but for Jane. Listen, she’s far too reserved to say so herself, but she really likes them. The kinkier, the better.”
Darcy shook his head, willing this knowledge to flee his brain.
“And she likes everything her sister’s doing, you know, ethically, to make them, so she won’t watch most of the stuff that’s out there.”
Darcy sighed, pulling his chin in. “But Jane’s so...”
Bing laughed. “I know. But that’s in public. In private, well, we all have our dark side.”
“I mean, we’ve lived together, Darcy, I know your dark side pretty well. Maybe I can tell Lizzie about those magazines you used to keep under your bed in high school.”
“No. NO. I’ll talk to Development. I promise.”
Ever since his sister had taken up with Caroline, things had been tenuous between the Darcy siblings.
There’d been an epic row between them weeks before Halloween; though Darcy had vowed after the Wickham affair to never again interfere in Gigi’s love life, he let his anger get the best of him again.
HIs was incensed to find her dating yet another friend of his, and afraid that a souring between the women would lead to him losing one or the other from his life. He didn’t keep many people close to him, and things had been strained already with Caroline.
Gigi had pointed out, not incorrectly, that she was an adult with an adult job, and she was keeping her own place now and her brother had no right to interfere. When he refused to acquiesce, she’d gone for the jugular: pointing out that his own relationship was static, so he had no right to judge her.
They’d spent weeks not speaking after that.
It wasn’t until Lizzie and Caroline had pushed them both into the same room and they’d been forced to talk things through that they’d reached a sort of peace.
He still wasn’t fond of the arrangement, but he had to admit that Caro and Gigi seemed to bring out the best in each other. That Lizzie supported the two of them despite the bad blood she’d once had with Caroline was convincing as well.
“I’ve already talked to Catherine about using the Aspen house for Thanksgiving,” he told Gigi on skype one evening.
“I know, I’ve already gotten an earful on all our choices.”
Darcy knew that Catherine was referring not to Gigi’s dating life— Catherine was far more pleased to see Gigi dating someone from their social class than she had been with Darcy’s romantic decisions lately— but to Gigi refusing to go to graduate school.
Not that Darcy had agreed with that decision either, but sometimes it was ok to let their aunt be the bad guy. “You have all the time in the world to get an advanced degree,” he said loyally.
“I know. She’s just cranky because of that dog of hers. Anyway, change of subject. You know how over the summer Lydia and I went on that road trip to wine country?”
“Of course,” he said, recalling his dread. He’d been pleased when they’d both returned, unharmed except for sunburns.
“Well, we were sort of... less than sober one night and we decided to write a script for a movie and anyway Lydia’s pushed it through and now it’s going to be produced.”
Darcy was without words.
“I know, I’m excited too! Anyway, Caroline and I have pedicures in twenty so I’ll let you go.”
“You can’t put your good name on that,” he said flatly.
“You know the Darcy name is already on the company, you goof,” Gigi said with an eyeroll. “Besides, I’m using a pen name.”
“And what is that?”
Not for the first time, Darcy wondered why he hadn’t just sold Novelty Exposures when he’d first acquired them.
But as they said their goodbyes, he saw the glee on his sister’s face, and he considered that the acquisition hadn’t been entirely a burden.
Everyone agreed that Jane was the prettiest Christmas bride they’d ever seen. And she’d been lovely; a vision in an unorthodox gold wedding dress.
Darcy had only had eyes for her sister, though, who was radiant in a forest green bridesmaid dress that might actually be fashionable.
They’d slipped away from the reception during the dessert course. It was at least twenty minutes until his best man speech, or her co-maid of honor speech. The wedding planner that Mrs. Lee had insisted on ran a tight ship, and Darcy had an alarm set on his phone.
They took the elevator up to their hotel room, pressed tightly together the entire way.
“We can’t crease anything,” she gasped. He pushed her panties aside as he pressed her against their door.
“I would never,” he said, adjusting himself so she could undo his belt. She wrapped her hand around him just as he’d gasped out, “this really made me think of what it’ll be for us one day.”
Lizzie’s hand stilled, but Darcy barely noticed, so intent was he on his goal. “What’d you say?”
“You know, when we get married.”
She stopped him with her other hand. “We aren’t engaged.”
“I know. But we will be,” he said, leaning in for a kiss.
She shoved him off. “You can’t just say these things.”
“I’m not—Lizzie, what’s wrong?”
“You’re always pushing. Marriage. Moving in together. Slow down.”
“I rarely bring it up.”
“You do. In all these passive-aggressive ways. And it’s been ten times worse at this wedding. Oh, Lizzie just wants to wait or I’m sure Lizzie and I are next or it’s so nice Jane and Bing are so committed. Just stop.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” he said, as he thought back over the night. Had he said those things?
“We need to get back downstairs,” she said, glaring at her reflection in the mirror.
“Nonsense, we have at least seven minutes.”
“Fine. I need to get downstairs. I’ll see you there,” she said, letting the door slam behind her.
Darcy, distraught, sat on his jacket.
The rest of the wedding was a blur of familial duties and carefully-worded sentences to disstant relations explaining that there was no rush to get married. They stayed up late and fell asleep almost immediately once released from their roles.
The morning after, they didn’t talk about their fight, and attended the post-wedding brunch looking every bit the happy couple. They took a plane back to California and were each back at work that Monday.
Only once did Lizzie address the tension. On New Year’s Eve, she leaned across the table and grabbed Darcy’s hand.
“I do love you, you know,” she said.
“Of course,” he responded, because he did. But he did wonder why she didn’t seem to want to get married.
Darcy was by no means a drinker, but attending the 32nd AVN Awards with his girlfriend and her sister made him reach for the scotch like few things ever had.
The porn stars in the limo weren’t helping anything either.
The three Woodys cradled to Lydia’s chest were the icing on the cake, really.
“You did great,” Lizzie murmured in his ear. “You almost looked like you didn’t hate being there.”
He had absolutely hated being there, but NE had been up for a dozen awards, and the AVNs were “the Oscars of dirty movies,” at least according to Lydia. Frankly, he believed the stars at the Oscars were more covered and less likely to win awards for orgy scenes, though he had to admit the crowd had been friendly.
“To the best spanking movie of the year!” Lydia squealed, toasting with Sarah, the woman who went by the ridiculously on-the-nose stage name of “Rosey Bottom.”
Jonathan, or “Jaze Wood” as he was known, gave them both large cheek kisses before grabbing the award and taking yet another picture of himself with it.
“Selfie-five!” Lydia said, pulling her own phone out and high-fiving Jonathan.
It was incredible to see how different Lydia was in her red formalwear, resembling more the energetic party-girl he’d first become acquainted with than the cool businesswoman she’d demonstrated herself to be in the past year and a half. He couldn’t begrudge her her joy.
Though he drew the line at going clubbing with her that night.
Instead, the chauffeur dropped Lydia, the stars, and an assortment of Novelty Exposure’s best and brightest on the strip and Darcy and Lizzie back at the hotel.
“That was an experience,” Lizzie said with a laugh, offering her back to him so he could unzip the beaded silver dress currently covering her.
He did, and as he did, he traced his fingers down the small of her back. She shivered, then turned, dress still on, to press a kiss to his mouth. She shrugged his suit jacket off as she deepened the kiss, then started going for his dress shirt.
He stilled her, pulling away enough to start removing his black bowtie.
“Leave it on,” she said, a devilish look on her face.
She made short work of his shirt and pants, however, and allowed him the pleasure of removing her dress.
His face was buried between her thighs when Lizzie broke the silence. “I’ve been thinking about what you said.”
He stilled. “What are you referring to?”
“At the wedding.”
Darcy held his breath.
She continued. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, really.”
“While I was doing this?”
She sat up, cradling her knees to her chest, and he stood up and eased onto the bed next to her. “It’s soothing.”
“That not really the intention, but all right,” he said with a mirthless laugh.
“And you’re—I don’t know why getting married makes me so nervous. It’s just, my mother, and Jane getting married, and you know, I don’t—it feels like I’m giving in to my mom’s demands.”
Darcy rubbed between her shoulders but remained silent.
Lizzie sighed. “But that’s not what this is, is it?”
“Your mother, while I respect her for raising you so well, doesn’t figure into this at all.”
“And I feel so young,” she continued.
“You have your own company, and advanced degree, and you’ve been living away from your parents for almost two years.”
She hugged him silently for ages. Then, just when he thought they were going to go to sleep, she leaned him back to kiss him deeply.
He was pushing into her when she broke her silence.
“Will, will you marry me?”
His arms went wobbly for a moment and he almost collapsed on top of her. “Excuse me?”
“I want to get married. I do. So I’m proposing.”
“We’re naked. This is a highly irregular proposal.”
She giggled. “We’ll clean up the story for the engagement party. Come on, what do you say?”
Darcy laughed, deep down, at the absurdity of the whole thing. “Okay. You want to propose to me mid-thrust while we’re in Vegas after an award show for pornography? Lizzie Bennet. I’m honored, and I accept.”
He rolled off of her. “Should I call up for strawberries and champagne? Do you want to call Charlotte?”
She rolled over on top of him. “In a minute. Let’s finish what we started.”